The department has asked the town for permission to lower the vesting period for the program from 15 to 10 years so that firefighters can be eligible sooner.
“15 years is an awful long time and so isn’t 10," Shillington, vice president and soon-to-be president of the department's Board of Directors, said. "It gives us another opportunity to bring in members at various ages if we lower it to 10.”
Town Manager Brandon Robertson introduced the proposal to the Town Council at its meeting last week and the item is still under review.
The department established LOSAP in 1997. Active veteran Bud Desmond was instrumental in putting the program together, along with many others, Shillington said.
"The program was adopted primarily as a member retention tool and continues to be the primary driver of the LOSAP program," Shillington wrote in an email to Patch.
LOSAP serves as a "retirement vehicle" and is similar to a pension program on a smaller scale, Shillington said. Each active department member accrues a certain amount of dollars every year. Once they reach the 15-year vesting period, they can access it in a lump sum then or upon retirement or receive it in increments.
LOSAP is also regarded as a retention tool to encourage people to stay in the department longer.
“If you’re in 13 years and maybe you don’t want to do it any longer, it’s that incentive to hang in for another couple years," said Shillington, who joined the department when he was 18 and is passionate about firefighting and serving on the board.
While firefighters who qualify for the program can use the money for anything, Shillington said that he doesn't plan on touching the money himself and is instead saving it for his family. It is nice to know the benefit is there, he said.
Fire department members pay taxes on the amount of money from their LOSAP accounts distributed to them.
Some firefighters leave it in the account after they reach the 15 years as a safety net for their families in the event something happens to them while battling a blaze.
The program is paid for through money the town allocates.
While the department is operated by volunteers, Shillington said a volunteer department does the same work as a career fire department and is a cost-saver for the town by comparison.
LOSAP is not a reimbursement program, but is one of many benefits for members.
“We want to ensure that they’re given something if they can stay in the department for a certain amount of time," Shillington said. "We want to make sure that they’re taken care of."
Other benefits that the department provides to its volunteers include life insurance for active members, a death benefit that would provide a small amount of money to family members if a member passes away and a property tax abatement of up to $1,000. Firefighters also receive points, each equaling a dollar, for every call they respond to and training that they attend, essentially as a gas reimbursement.
Shillington became interested in joining the fire department after talking with a firefighter he spotted wearing a department jacket while dining at a restaurant. He was the first firefighter in his family and encouraged his brother to join. His nephew is a member of the AVFD Explorer Program.
“I would not have done
anything different," Shillington said.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can either call 860-677-2644, register on the department's website, or visit any of the department's fire stations. A good time to stop by is Monday drill nights between 7 and 9 p.m., Shillington said.